An Open Letter: From Outgoing Cofounder Shelby Sly

Why we’re sad: Shelby’s Leaving.

Why we’re happy: she wrote a beautiful letter about it.


To all members of Women in Business and the Cal Poly community,

Before I say anything further, I want to make clear, the following are my thoughts and mine alone. While our blog editor has been gracious in allowing me to make them publicly available on The WIB Wire, they do not represent the opinions or stance of our association and should not be construed as such.

Right now is an interesting time for members and allies of WIB, regardless of political stance or affiliation. I know some of you are hurting, and many are feeling helpless. It is difficult to watch as work that we devote ourselves to on a daily basis seems either inconsequential or invalidated by recent events in our country and community. I know that I have found myself fluctuating between anger and heartbreak when I think about the challenges that await us in the coming years. I wish I could relay the following thoughts to each and every one of you individually, but unfortunately my time at Cal Poly is quickly coming to a close, and so I will leave you all with a few thoughts as you move forward with your education and careers.

Firstly, this work matters, and it will continue to matter.

Unfortunately, for those of us who work daily toward a more equal and just world, the work is far from over, and organizations like WIB are going to matter all the more in the coming years. Do not lose sight of the reason behind WIB’s existence–it is not, and never has been, just about networking, or building professional connections, or getting a job. It is about building each other up, and creating a community that actively strives to improve the lives of ALL individuals on campus, especially those who are most vulnerable right now. I won’t mince words here, this work is tough, it is hard, and it is often painful. You will lose friends, you will alienate people, and you will end some days with little motivation to continue. But fighting the good fight is always worth it purely because it is good. This leads me to my next point, which is:


Secondly, refuse to censor yourself to comfort the ignorance of other

A very dear friend of mine said it best with, “The language of justice is never neutral.” Now this notion might seem a bit subjective, so let me be clear, being critical of yourself is also crucial in this regard. We are all positioned and biased individuals, but if you can be critical of yourself and your own role in systems of oppression, then you can begin to foster the same in those around you. Strive to be someone who holds fast to their values, and guard them fiercely. Set an example to other young women and men of those values and be uncompromising in them. You will do more good than you realize in refusing to speak about issues such as racism or sexism in a “neutral way.” They are not neutral issues, and thus the language to discuss them shouldn’t be either. Be vocal, be courageous, be bold, all for those who can’t. This is a difficult thing to do, as it requires constant effort on your part– and it is by no means fair, but it is ultimately how we educate our peers.

And finally, never become complacent about your ability to change the state of things.

If I could leave you with any tidbit of advice it would be this: Success is not about the money you make or titles you accrue. Those serve only your sense of ego and self. Instead, I will argue success is really measured in the number of people you bring with you, the lives you touch and the change you create. Never become indifferent to the ability each of you have to affect this kind of change.

It goes without saying that working with and empowering young women is a keen passion of mine, and no words will ever be able to describe how immensely proud I am of the compassionate, intelligent, strong women that I have watched so many of you become with WIB. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again for believing in Women in Business and what it stands for. This experience has meant the world to me, and in leaving Cal Poly I am comforted with the knowledge that each of you will go on to continue the work we started.

In the words of a much smarter woman than I am, “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.” I promise you that work, in the end, will all be worth it.


Shelby Sly
Outgoing Co-Founder, Co-President ‘15-16

2 comments on “An Open Letter: From Outgoing Cofounder Shelby Sly”

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